World Cup Group D: Messi's Argentina Could Be Challenged

Monday, April 30, 2018 3:04 PM UTC

Monday, Apr. 30, 2018 3:04 PM UTC

Lionel Messi and Argentina have an easy path out of their World Cup group ... or that's what many people assume. Nigeria, Croatia and Iceland plan to make the 2014 runners-up earn it.

Skybook Odds to Advance from Group D
  • Argentina -700
  • Nigeria +225
  • Croatia -200
  • Iceland +275

To the untrained ear, this group consisting of Argentina, Croatia, Nigeria and Iceland might sound like an easy bye to the next round for Messi & Co., but the 2014 World Cup runners-up are in for a battle if they want to make it out of the group stage in 2018. Croatia is right on their heels with an excellent midfield, Nigeria possesses some all-world young talent, and Iceland was the darling of the 2016 Euro tournament and have adapted well to playing the role of spoiler. To further Argentina's worries, they struggled through qualifying and Messi has said he will retire from international play if this World Cup does not go well. So there is a lot of pressure on “La Seleccion” to perform.

The first day of matches among this group will say a lot about how the standings will play out. Argentina plays Iceland in the early game, and this match should set the tone for how the Argentines are able to handle the sneaky-tough group. If they dispense of Iceland without much problem, we will know that we are dealing with a serious Argentine side. Should they falter, it will bring into question their ability to handle the other two teams and may leave them susceptible to an upset against Nigeria or Croatia, which would put them at risk of not advancing.

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Later that same day, Croatia will play Nigeria, which will have implications on who is going to be in the best position compete for second place. Odds have Croatia as a slight favorite, as they are a bit more accomplished and experienced. For more information on current odds, check out Skybook’s World Cup Russia 2018 Soccer Odds page. Either way, the winner of this match will be in fairly good position going forward, whereas the loser still has to face Argentina, and two losses in the group stage usually spell death. Not that the winner is necessarily out of the woods either, because both of these teams are on relatively even ground with Iceland, so there is no "gimmie" game here.

So while odds favor Croatia to win vs. both Nigeria and Iceland and come out of the group in the second spot, it will be a close call with your World Cup picks as no team is a clear favorite outside of Argentina in this group. Croatia had a bad spell while qualifying, losing to Finland and Turkey, so it is completely feasible they could lose to Nigeria or Iceland. What is clear is that no team should be taken lightly in this group. Nigeria has three young players who are fixtures on Premier League teams. Leicester's Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho are formidable players, and Alex Iwobi of Arsenal is a very versatile asset to his team. Iceland, meanwhile, is enjoying their golden generation, and has had recent success farther than the country has ever imagined, eliminating England in the 2016 Euro tournament and qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in their history. They will be riding a lot of momentum and will be out to prove they are worthy to be there.

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